19 thoughts on “Belvedere Not Quite What Was Advertised”

  1. Not “affordable,” in my opinion.

    Let’s take a peek.

    569k, 529k, 444k, 434k, 429k… 274k (lowest price listed here)

    Even the townhomes are selling for high, high 200’s (as in 299k) and 300’s. Absurd.

  2. And have you driven around back there? The houses are way too close together, no front yard, no back yard (none bigger than a postage stamp anyway) and with the houses so close together they still bothered to put windows looking out to the wall of the other house (or into the window of the next door house).

    I’d put up with that sort of “shoulder to shoulder” building in a big city like L.A. or Chicago, Boston metro area (etc). But Charlottesville? No way.

  3. Agreed, TrvlnMn. That’s fine downtown, when that’s the experience you choose. But most people wouldn’t want that away from the immediate center of town. What the density advocates fail to understand is that most people don’t move to Charlottesville for density– they move here for some elbow room.

    And someone needs to say it– criminy, some of those Belvedere houses are gawdawful. Urgh, what is that architecture, anyway? Arts-n-Crafts-esque?

  4. Think you’re right, though I’d add an “-ish” to the end of that descriptor. ;)

    The design I saw for the Town Center (or is it “Centre”?) was pretty cool though. Wonder if that’ll even get built?

  5. $177/sq.ft. is bat-shit crazy insane. ESPECIALLY in this housing market. Those homes are likely to sit vacant for some time – the carrying costs are going to sting whoever built them.

  6. I think all of you need a reality check. There’s not much in Albemarle that’s afforable anyway. That’s not exactly news. It has been…and always will be. And besides, if you don’t like it, don’t live there. It’s like an R-rated movie…if you think it has too much violence, don’t go see it. We love Belvedere and have been thrilled with it, even with the delays. We wanted that type of house (heaven forbid…it has character…unlike anything in Forest Lakes, etc.), closeness of homes, etc. You choose what you like, and I’ll choose what I like. You seem to think your opinion is fact. I’m glad you won’t be my neighbor (and close one at that!). PS- Thanks to the builders for keeping us posted on what is going on here. I have a lot of respect for Bob Hauser.

  7. There’s not much in Albemarle that’s afforable anyway. […] And besides, if you don’t like it, don’t live there.

    “Affordable” isn’t binary, Doug. It’s a scale. Right now, CAAR lists 495 houses in Charlottesville and Albemarle that are cheaper than anything in Belvedere. I signed a contract to build a house just two days ago that’s quite a bit cheaper than anything in Belvedere, and I guarantee you it’s way more environmentally friendly than anything in Belvedere, despite their “green” billing.

    Remember, we’re talking about affordability because that’s how Belvedere was billed. They promoted themselves as being a provider of sorely-needed affordable housing in Albemarle. The BoS had to approve the development, and they did so in part on the basis of their “affordable housing” pitch. Then they did a 180 after the BoS had approved their “affordable” development—and declared that they were now providing “green” housing, having found a new buzzword. They ditched the affordable rubric.

    So to say “if you don’t like it, don’t live there” is, frankly, bullshit. We the people had our elected officials approve this development as one thing, and Stonehaus pulled the old bait-and-switch. And now they’ve pulled the same thing on y’all who bought houses there—totally predictably—leaving you with a big, empty, unfinished development.

    I’ll put money on this right now. I’ll bet $100 that there will never, ever be a working farm in Belvedere. The proceeds go to the Albemarle Housing Improvement Program. We’d want to put some specifics in there, like a date that will serve as “never,” what constitutes a working farm, what constitutes Belvedere, etc. But if somebody wants to go up against me, bring it on.

    You seem to think your opinion is fact.

    No more than you.

    I have a lot of respect for Bob Hauser.

    Then clearly you’re not one of the small business owners to whom he owes enormous sums of money.

  8. I’d say lets find a way to give all the undeveloped land to Habitat for Humanity and then sit back with a bucket of popcorn and watch all the New Jersey transplants at Dunlora start having massive conniption fits.

  9. Here’s where I think this, and the growth plan in general is incredibly flawed…

    I think the the kind of development they were trying to build here, inspired by New Urbanism, was never meant to be build in a suburban area. The concept of building more dense walkable neighborhoods with green space, was really envisioned as a way to couteract sprawl, not to create it. Now if they’d redeveloped Albemarle Square and placed this development there, then that’d be more in line with the philosophy.

    When development does occur in suburban or rural areas (and it will) then I think there needs to be a slightly different model of design that recognizes the context of where the neighborhood is going. I also think that really the best designs often happen organically, and not as some sort of huge commercial development. I think that to some degree Albemarle has relied on the financial power of developers to implement some of their design ideas, when some of that model they coudl have implemented on their own.

    For example, you can have a developer proffer a park, or you can simply buy parkland (or use eminent domain) and make one yourself. Likewise, you can build streets with sidewalks, or you can have the developer proffer that improvement. While having the developer pay for these things seems like a good idea on the surface, the problem is it inflates the price of homes and there’s little to keep the developer from later failing to add them. In other situations, it is the new residents themselves that block the improvements. For example connectivity of streets is a goal, but once a neighborhood has been built, neighbors always object fiercely to it being connected to later development.

    One thing is clear, the existing planning/development model is not working.

  10. Do the houses in Belvedere really have a kind of “character” that houses in no other recent developer-built subdivision have? I mean, if you want to say you prefer the style of houses in Belvedere over those in Forest Lakes, that makes sense, but how does one subdivision style have more “character” than another?

  11. Cecil, it doesn’t. The community renderings and photos of Belvedere homes look a lot like my dad’s neighborhood in Alexandria, which was built in the late 90’s. Nothing wrong with that, but it doesn’t make Belvedere particularly innovative or creative.

    What I’d like to know is, what makes the homes so green? The website likes to throw around words like “Earthcraft certified” and “LEED certified” with links to other websites, but no explanation of what a potential Belvedere buyer could expect to find in their home that’s so different from any other recent construction, or what the average utility bill might look like.

    I went to Waldo’s 2007 post and saw the comment from Chris Schooley of Stonehaus, mentioning that they had an organic farmer who would be ready to start planting in spring 2008. Mr. Schooley said he did not want to mention the farmer’s name yet, but “it won’t be long until it is ready for public consumption.” Anyone know if that ever did happen, or who this organic farmer is?

  12. Saith TrvlnMn: “I’d say lets find a way to give all the undeveloped land to Habitat for Humanity and then sit back with a bucket of popcorn and watch all the New Jersey transplants at Dunlora start having massive conniption fits.”

    Don’t be so sure about that. Our local Habitat is now teaming up with developers like the Kessler Group (Glenmore, Dunlora) to create market rate housing. Habitat is no longer in the affordable housing game as we’ve known it. They are now in the affordable housing/ “creative” housing/ market-rate housing game. Ruh-roh…

    Apparently they over-spent on big parcels like Southwood, and are now saying they have to recoup those losses by getting into the development game. A lot of people are really disturbed by what the Cville Habitat is calling its new “paradigm.” The biggest issue that people have is that Habitat, like the Belvedere developers, will be applying for zoning permits based on what people will assume is their old standard of affordable housing, which is a noble mission with a lengthy track record. The reality is that the percentage of the new developments that are actually affordable by most people’s standards has shrunk by a huge margin. Since Council and the PC usually rubber-stamp Habitat projects based on the old paradigm, this has turned into a bit of a wolf in sheep’s clothing scenario.

    Whether you consider that it’s “creative” or troublesome depends on the individual, I suppose. However, I know many people who are now looking at the local Habitat organization with a much more jaundiced eye these days. A glance at the national website shows business as usual, using the old methods, so I assume that becoming developers is a local decision.

  13. I’d like to think it is a local decision.

    What I don’t think a lot of people get is that Habitat under the old structure was less a developer and more of an “alternative mortgage company.” So it makes sense that they would get into the “profit” end to support the non-profit part. I don’t know that I approve of that- because I don’t know any of the details of what that sort of arrangement would involve).

    While you were a new habitat owner/participant if you lived in said house for X number of years there was a portion of the mortgage (a silent 2nd- or something like that) that was forgiven. If you sold sooner than “x date” then you were on the hook for the full market amount of the inital loan.

    And the covenants on habitat houses always involved them getting the right of first refusal on every (and I mean every) sale of the initial habitat property. Even if the habitat house was sold outside of the habitat system (which I was told wouldn’t happen because the habitat people wanted to keep their houses in the system), the next non-habitat owner would have to upon selling it first offer it to habitat.

  14. “Since Council and the PC usually rubber-stamp Habitat projects based on the old paradigm, this has turned into a bit of a wolf in sheep’s clothing scenario.” I am not aware of any relationship between Habitat and the City concerning Southwood, which lies entirely in the county and is not subject to city zoning laws.
    The City, however, is very much involved with the current planning of redeveloping the city’s public housing sites. This is a project headed up by the Charlottesville Redebelopment and Housing Authority, Dave Norris is serving as the chairman of the redevlopment committee.

  15. Cville Eye, you’re not aware of it because there is no relationship between the city and Southwood. No one here said that there was.

    Habitat has pending projects in both the city and county. Local losses must be recouped from larger purchases in the area such as Southwood (county) and Sunrise (city). They overspent and feel they would like to become developers to cover the expenditure. The fact that they overspent, however, is not being dealt with.

    Yes, and then here’s the CRHA… which is a different matter entirely.

  16. “Yes, and then here’s the CRHA… which is a different matter entirely.” Isn’t CRHA in the process of partnering of other entities to build some market-rate housing? Some residents and staff have been traveling around looking at HOPE VI sites.

  17. Personally, I think it’s about time that the government stop using its money to create pockets of poverty. The federal government recognized this after creating them all over the country for decades. At best, they’re considered troubled neigbhorhoods, at worst, slums not fit for roaches. It also determined that it would take the private sector’s participation with non-profits to create mixed income neighborhoods. Here is a link to a HOPE VI mixed income project: http://www.pennrose.net/portfolio/gatewayCrossing.shtml

  18. …you’re not aware of it because there is no relationship between the city and Southwood. No one here said that there was.

    There may not be any relationship between the two, but the city has certainly bent over backwards to accomodate them.

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